I found a Lloyds TSB SME business banking ad in The Observer today. It wasn’t hard to find, being a great big double-page spread. I perused it for a minute or two: using a case history of how the bank had helped two women make a success of a fashion retail business, it told us how valuable the bank’s advice can be to any small and success-hungry firm.
I’d come to the conclusion that this was all quite boring and implausible, and was about to move on, when a thought suddenly occurred to me: I’ve been running SMEs for very nearly 25 years, so presumably I must be in the target market for this advertising.
This thought was interesting to me – a lot more interesting than the ad – for two reasons. First, I had been within a couple of seconds of turning the page without even realising that the bank was indeed talking to me. And second, it went on to occur to me that in nearly 25 years, I’ve never heard anything in my business life ever, either from my existing bank offering me advice or anything else, or from any other bank trying to promote its services and win my business.
OK, there are some good reasons for that. My first agency, DMB&B Financial, was a subsidiary of the large global DMB&B agency, and as I recall we shared their banking arrangements. And in both DMB&B Financial and my second agency, CCHM, we did quite quickly have our own Finance Director and in due course finance department: presumably it was them who talked to our bank or indeed any other bank, not me.
But this is at best only a partial explanation. For well over half that long period, I was chairman of the agencies, and whatever was going on for better or for worse with the FD and his team you’d think that at least one bank would like the idea of opening a second front with other members of the management team. And anyway, since July 2010 I haven’t been part of an agency: I have been my one-man consulting firm, Lucian Camp Consulting, and over that time I’ve heard nothing from any bank either.
All of this makes me wonder: is there something odd about me and my various businesses that makes banks not want to talk to me? Or, alternatively, is the situation described in the Lloyds TSB ad (and, when I come to think of it, a load of other SME banking service advertising) extremely unusual, and entirely unrepresentative of a world in which the large majority of banks have nothing at all to do with their SME customers?
If the latter, then that great big DPS in The Observer looks like a bit of a waste of money. But if the former, well, in the unlikely event that anyone from any bank’s SME department is reading this, I’d love to know what’s wrong with me.